The smoldering ruins called Rush Limbaugh dramatize one political truism: seemingly impregnable fortresses are most vulnerable to suicidal implosions. Despite decades of volcanic vitriol, no outside force had yet penetrated Rush's propaganda bubble chamber, full of pretend entertainment. No doubt, the fall of the Dittohead Dynasty reflects both the gratuity of Limbaugh's latest abuse and the wholesomeness of the victim. For the record, Sandra Fluke's noble decency stared down a serial miscreant. After all, other fringe charlatans haven't suddenly lost 140 sponsors, nor did some new-found Democratic charge deter Rush's grotesque buffoonery.
Though the bully pulpit resides in the White House, shifty, snarling bullies still sneer their way to fame and fortune. The historic bully pulpit, a powerful tool for past leaders, has withered, crowded out by bullying puppets who speak for backroom billionaires. When a Limbaugh commandeers 900 stations and spans four presidencies, enough ballast still hoodwinks a shipload of fools, suckers, and bigots.
Though rightwing politicians are doing their best, the prize for broadcast browbeating goes clearly to this master of contempt. Rush is the moral equivalent of a toxic super-fund site. For decades, his career and obscene income depended on one monotonous regime: every day find some new fury to outdo yesterday's outrage, feeding on minorities, foreigners, and liberals when women don't work. The plotline is no mystery: spew forth wanton abuse, express incredulity anyone would take offense, then muddy the waters and cap off with the pained grievance of the professional victim. Sarah Palin learned from a master.
After this latest fiasco, Rush was true to form, blaming everyone but himself with false apologies and crude indirection: "Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything that I know to be right and wrong, I descended to [my opponents'] level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke. That was my error. I became like them."
This is raging hypocrisy in high relief, so odious that anxious advertisers run for the exits, even as such withdrawals make Limbaugh a martyr to his troops. But sponsors, profit driven all, could not sustain any fiction Rush was "a voice crying in the wilderness," as my friend Clay Reynolds quips, when it was obvious he more resembled "a madman beating a dead horse." Why, Rush is now so discredited, he may have no other career choices than to follow where all dishonored Rethuglicans go -- run for office as virtue incarnate. In the tradition of Palin, Gingrich and Santorum, patriotism is hardly the last refuge of scoundrels when electoral politics winks, beckoning with the chance of a lifetime.
Ravings from the Tiniest Titan
In this light, I part company with shoot-from-the-hip liberals urging Rush get fired. Item #1: "FCC should clear Limbaugh from airwaves" declares Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem in a CNN posting. "Clear," as in identify, stifle and banish. And for what great crime? -- "language that deliberately dehumanizes his targets. Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, [Rush] creates rhetorical frames -- and the bigger the lie, the more effective -- inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans."